Loving, happy, adventurous, ambitious, kind, humble, big heart
Imagine someone who comes into a room and literally brings happiness with them; that was Arnold. He was friendly and bubbly and had a huge heart. Not wanting to raise her infant son in an abusive relationship, Arnold’s mother, Graciela, credits him with giving her the courage to leave when he was six months old. It wasn’t until he was 14 that Arnold found out his stepfather Jorge was not his biological dad. He took it well because he was so loved and happy with the family he had.
On school vacations, Arnold often spent weeks on a ranch in Mexico with his extended family. When he was there, he became interested in rodeos and bull riding. His goal was to save money and buy his own farm in Mexico or Texas, where he could have all the animals he wanted and become a bull rider.
Arnold’s first job was at the local CVS pharmacy when he was 16. An entrepreneur, he started his own window tinting business just a month before he died. He rarely had money though because, always generous, he would pay for everyone to eat.
Arnold was diagnosed with ADHD in second grade. He struggled with school because of his inability to focus. He was on medication but quit taking it. Knowing that people with ADHD are more likely to abuse substances than kids in the general population, his mother took him to therapy and enrolled him in VIDA, a 12-week program that covered the dangers of drug use. Fentanyl was not one of the drugs covered in the educational program.
Because Arnold’s birthday was just before Halloween, his mother organized a Halloween-theme party every year with costumes and decorations. For his 15th birthday, his mother surprised Arnold with a mechanical bull. COVID changed plans for his 16th birthday, and it was risky to have his 17th birthday because the virus was persisting.
The night Arnold passed away he was excited to go out to a Halloween party and about his costume. “But he never came back from the party,” his mom said. She still doesn’t know how Arnold ingested the fentanyl that took his life. Arnold never used drugs before that night. “That day we should have been celebrating his birthday,” his mom said. Graciela used to dress up and take the kids out to trick or treat, but for now, she doesn’t even want to see a costume.
Graciela has mementos of Arnold at the entrance to her living room. They contain his picture, a cross, a prayer, and candles. It is where she says her prayers every night. The boots that Arnold wore with his costume are there as well, now with flowers in them. Arnold’s little brother Jorge talks to “Pollo,” Arnold’s nickname while playing with his toys. Lately, Arnold’s sister, Ariana, sits nearby to do her homework.
Arnold’s mom misses his happy demeanor, strong voice, laugh and smile. “I feel some healing relief doing something for him, talking about him,” Graciela said. “Doing something to keep my memories and bring awareness of the issue to others is helpful, even if there is no justice for his death. I don’t want him to be forgotten.”
Arnold’s mother, Graciela Baez, provided the information for this narrative.
October 27, 2003-November 1, 2020
Age 17-Arnold used one drug one time; it was a fatal dose.